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Remote WA community of Mantamaru goes into COVID-19 lockdown

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A remote Aboriginal community in Western Australia has been placed into lockdown as the state government faces criticism over its delayed border reopening.

Premier Mark McGowan on Monday revealed WA had 213 new local COVID-19 cases and 11 travel-related infections.

Two people are in hospital on general wards.

The Premier warned more cases were likely in the community of Mantamaru, about 1000 kilometres east of Kalgoorlie, after two people tested positive over the weekend.

Mr McGowan said the two people who had tested positive there had travelled into WA from South Australia via back roads, breaching the state’s border rules.

“They’ve been fined as a consequence,” he told reporters.

“Police have locked down that community. The people who were positive are in quarantine and police are monitoring the situation.

“We expect there will be other people infected and we’ll do what we can to manage that situation in the community.”

WA Health said there were about 50 people in the community, also known as Jameson, and five close contacts were also isolating.

The department is working with Ngaanyatjarra Health Service to manage the outbreak.

There are about 230 remote Aboriginal communities in WA, with low vaccination rates a concern.

“The fact the virus is in one community will hopefully spur more people to get vaccinated,” Mr McGowan said.

WA’s active case tally has grown to 1178 as the state prepares to reopen its borders to vaccinated travellers from March 3.

Qantas this month said it would push back the resumption of its Perth to London direct flights until June and operate the flights out of Darwin in the meantime.

The airline on Monday indicated its position remained unchanged despite WA’s reopening announcement.

As Australia welcomed back its first international tourists, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce questioned the point of WA’s one-month border delay.

“We were planned, ready and organised to open up on the fifth of February and now we’re struggling to meet the third of March,” he told Seven’s Sunrise program.

“It is a very disorderly opening … we apologise because we won’t have as much capacity as we should have had.”

New public health measures came into effect overnight in Perth and five other regions, including a density rule at hospitality venues of one person per two square metres.

Home gatherings are capped at 30 people and private outdoor events in non-home settings at 200 people.

Mr McGowan defended the “relatively modest” restrictions that have faced some criticism from the hospitality sector.

He said strict proof of vaccination rules would remain in place at most venues until there was improvement in the third-dose rate.

About 57 per cent of eligible West Australians have so far had their booster.

“The only way we got to high levels of vaccination was via the mandates,” Mr McGowan said.

Opposition treasury spokesman Steve Thomas said small businesses were being treated with contempt and deserved to know whether they would receive compensation.

-AAP

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